Tag:Michael Boley
Posted on: November 23, 2011 6:18 pm

Film Room: Giants vs. Saints preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit

With a December Monday Night schedule that could make viewers implode from boredom, we at least get to say goodbye to November with a compelling, playoff-implicating NFC matchup. This warrants a classic five-part breakdown.

Saints offense vs. Giants defense
1. Giants pass-rush vs. Saints pass protection
This is a glaring mismatch. New Orleans has the worst pass-blocking offensive tackle tandem in football in Jermon Bushrod (left side) and Zach Strief (right side). Bushrod is slow and has awful technique. Strief is just slow. The sack numbers do not reflect this because Drew Brees is a magician when it comes to getting rid of the ball quickly and moving in and out of the pocket.

Brees, like most star quarterbacks, gets rid of the ball thanks to shrewd presnap reads. But where he’s really elite is in going through his reads. Brees can scan three or four different receivers on a simple five-step drop. He recognizes and anticipates receiver-defender relationships as fast as any passer in the game.

Because so much of what Brees does is based on quick timing and rhythm, it’s not necessarily wise to blitz him. Instead, the objective is to force him to exhaust his progressions. It’s 50-50 that the pass protection can hold up long enough for him to do this (if Brees were a typical quarterback, it’d be more like 25-75). The Rams did this in their Week 8 upset of the Saints.

The Giants’ defensive ends are several grades better than the Rams’. They’ll pressure Brees with four rushers.

2. Saints WR’s vs. Giants secondary
In Week 8, the Rams thrived with physical press coverage aided by safety help. The Giants secondary delivered terrific press coverage in their win at New England a few weeks ago. It wouldn’t be surprising to see more of that Monday night. The Saints have four quality wide receivers: Marques Colston, Robert Meachem, Devery Henderson and Lance Moore.

With a matchup nightmare like tight end like Jimmy Graham, most of the Saints’ formations involve only three of those wideouts. But whatever the pieces, they can -- and do -- align in all different spots on the field.

This is one reason it’s enticing to play press-man against them. Instead of trying to figure out the litany of formations and route possibilities, a defensive coordinator can put a safety or two over the top and tell his cornerbacks to just jam the hell out of whoever they line up against.

But when defenses can mix in zone coverages, they obviously give themselves more options. With rookie Prince Amukamara now healthy, the Giants might be one of the few secondaries in the league versatile enough to do this against the Saints.

With Corey Webster shadowing DeSean Jackson most of last Sunday night (Webster has shadowed the opposing No. 1 receiver regularly this season), Amukamara and Aaron Ross played inside and outside across from him. Both men played man and zone principles.

The Giants also have a multipronged tool in safety Antrel Rolle. He’s rangy in space and, as a former cornerback, adept at playing all coverages as the nickel slot defender.

3. Saints’ savvy run-pass tactic
Don’t be surprised if the Saints frequently throw out of running formations Monday night. Jimmy Graham is extremely effective running routes from a traditional tight end stance, and fullback Jed Collins is capable of catching passes in the flats. We think of the Saints as a spread offense, but Brees is averaging about 10 pass attempts per game out of two-back formations, and 10 of his 23 touchdown passes have come from such sets.

The run formation approach gains potency because the Giants starting linebackers struggle in coverage. Those struggles manifest drastically if Michael Boley (hamstring) is still out. Boley’s replacement, Mark Herzlich, was fantastic against the run last Sunday, but he was badly exposed when dropping back in coverage.

The linebacking issues are significant enough that the Giants may even be compelled to play their 4-2-5 nickel defense against the Saints base offense (they’d be treating Graham as a wide receiver). In that case, Sean Payton would have his array of running backs pound the rock behind monstrous All-World guards Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans.

The run formations could also aid New Orleans’ proficient play-action game (Brees was 17/19 for 212 yards and two touchdowns off play-action fakes against the Falcons in Week 10). It’s a myth that you need to establish the run in order to set up play-action.

In reality, defenders are trained to react to movement; play-action will work if the fake and the offensive linemen’s initial movements are executed well, regardless of how a team has been running the ball. That said, those fakes and movements are obviously more believable when the offense is lined up in a run formation.

Giants offense vs. Saints defense
4. Giants run game woes
The Giants will not advance deep in the playoffs if their run game does not get going. A typical Brandon Jacobs run these days involves the 265-pounder stumbling a yard behind the line of scrimmage, bumping into his own blocker, fighting for a yard-and-a-half and then pissing off every player around him by bumping into body after body as he tries to prove his manhood by ferociously picking himself up off the ground before other players can unpile, all the while barking emphatically about ... what, exactly?

How lucky are the defenders that this isn’t four years ago, when Jacobs was actually productive?

The Giants need a healthy Ahmad Bradshaw in the worst of ways. Of course, the rock-firm scatback’s presence would only present a greater opportunity for a rejuvenated run game -- not the assurance of one. Bradshaw was averaging just 4.0 yards per carry before his foot injury -- 0.7 yards below his career average.

New York’s problems start up front. And they may not be solved this week. Center David Baas has struggled with lateral run-blocking in tight spaces. Saints defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin is not an ideal opponent to face when trying to correct this. Thirty-one-year-old left guard David Diehl is showing signs of decline. This week could be tough, as the Saints defensive ends are excellent in run defense, particularly when crashing inside.

If the Giants offensive line can somehow break even in this matchup, New York’s fullbacks and tight ends will likely have opportunities to work against a Saints linebacking corps that’s without leader Jonathan Vilma (out since the start of the month with a knee). The Saints would almost need to commit eight to the box at that point. Roman Harper might be the best pure in-box safety in the NFL, but if the Giants can compel him to focus heavily on the run, they’ll impeded his blitzes, which are one of the Saints’ best weapons in pass defense (see item 5).

5. Saints blitzes
A big reason Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams blitzes so much is he knows his down four linemen cannot consistently collapse the pocket on their own. Don’t expect that to change much Sunday night (even though the Giants offensive tackles struggled mightily against the Eagles).

The difference between Williams’ D and other blitzing defenses is that Williams’ D blitzes hard. His blitzes often involve six pass-rushers instead of just five. And because one of those six rushers is usually a defensive back (Harper is phenomenal in this facet, as his 6.5 sacks on the season attest), and because nickel linebacker Jonathan Casillas has crazy speed and acceleration downhill, New Orleans’ blitzes are exceptionally fast.

Expect Victor Cruz and Jake Ballard to be big factors Monday night; as slot targets they’ll be Eli Manning’s hot reads against these blitzes.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all Week 12 games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: November 20, 2011 10:56 am

Giants Mark Herzlich to make first start Sunday

Herzlich, a cancer survivor, will make the first start of his NFL career against the Eagles(Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

By Mark Herzlich's junior season at Boston College, he was an All-American and ACC Defensive Player of the Year, and the NFL appeared to be the next step in a successful football career. Instead of entering the draft, Herzlich returned to school for his senior year, but didn't play a down after he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma.

He returned the following season but was only a shadow of his former football-playing self, and understandably so. Herzlich wasn't selected in the NFL Draft and that seemed to be the end of his professional career. But the Giants signed him as an undrafted free agent and now, 11 weeks into his rookie season, Herzlich, a cancer survivor, will make his first NFL start when New York faces Philadelphia Sunday night.

“It comes hand in hand,” Herzlich said, via the Newark Star Ledger's Jorge Castillo. “The better I play, the better my story gets. Obviously, my goal right now, and in general, is just to play better. I’ve beaten cancer, it’s in my past, but at the same time I continue to be proud of what I’ve accomplished.”

Herzlich, who appeared in nine games this season on special teams, gets a chance to play linebacker with Michael Boley doubtful due to a hamstring injury. But this isn't like Little League, where Herzlich's opportunity is less about his talents and more about letting everybody get on the field. He's earned it.

“Watch out for Herzlich now,” fellow linebacker and Boston College alum Mathias Kiwanuka said. “He’s going to play well.”

Adds Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell: “Mark is a go-getter. He is one of those 100 percent guys that if he sees something, he is going to go smack it and ask questions later.”

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Posted on: September 2, 2011 4:31 pm

Giants' Sintim latest to be lost to injury

Posted by Ryan Wilson

When it comes to injuries, the Giants haven't caught a break this preseason. There was Osi Umenyiora's well publicized knee ("Is he hurt? Is he faking? Oh, it is legit…"), and the team lost cornerback Terrell Thomas last week when he blew out his ACL. There's also first-round pick, cornerback Prince Amukamara (broken foot), second-round pick, defensive tackle Marvin Austin (torn pectoral muscle), and now we can add linebacker Clint Sintim's name to the list.

Sintim, a 2009 second-rounder, suffered a ruptured patella tendon in his right knee during Thursday's meaningless preseason game against the Patriots and he will be out for the year. This comes nine months after he tore his ACL against the Rams last December.

His teammate Michael Boley called it “heartbreaking” and head coach Tom Coughlin called it “devastating," according to the New York Daily News' Ralph Vacchiano.

“You’ve got to feel badly for a guy that’s coming back off a serious knee (injury),” Coughlin said after the game. “Works his tail off, really didn’t say a word the whole preseason, just did what he had to do, worked on the field. And then to see that happen tonight. It was devastating.”

Sintim has struggled to stay healthy during his short NFL career. “It’s tough, especially when you know what he went through over the course of this offseason,” Boley said. “Then something terrible like this happens again, it’s heartbreaking.”

Unfortunately Sintim is familiar with the rehab process. “That’s the way football is,” he said, via Vacchiano. “I’m going to give myself a couple of days and I’m going to get back on the grind.”

“He’ll bounce back,” Coughlin added. "But to have to go through what he’s got to go through again in terms of the rehab, etc., we feel real bad for Clint.”

Sintim's injury could pave the way for Mark Herzlich to backdoor his way onto the roster. The former BC standout and cancer survivor was signed as an undrafted free agent in late July, though the New York Post's Paul Schwartz writes that Herzlich is still a long shot for the final 53.

"Staying around won't be easy. Another undrafted rookie linebacker, Spencer Paysinger, started [against the Patriots Thursday night] as the Giants went exclusively with backups. Two other rookies, Greg Jones and Jacquian Williams, got on the field on defense before Herzlich; Williams was a terror with three sacks. In the cruel reality of football, Clint Sintim, went down in the third quarter with a season-ending right knee injury. That roster spot might now belong to Herzlich, a sinister irony. When Herzlich was receiving cancer treatments, he often spoke with Sintim, then a linebacker at Virginia."

"I feel really badly for him," Herzlich said. "I told him we've been through worse, man. It's all about coming back and keeping your mind on the goal."

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Posted on: November 14, 2010 10:50 am

Dallas is still dangerous (maybe)

R. Williams drops a pass, perfectly symbolizing Dallas' season (Getty). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

The Giants won’t take anything for granted when they face the Cowboys today. Sure, the Cowboys are a ridiculous 1-7, and yeah, they just fired their head coach, and yes, they’ve appeared to quit on the field the past two weeks.

But a new (interim) coach in Jason Garrett could bring in a new spark to Dallas. That’s why New York will be a cautious when the Giants play the Cowboys.

“A lot of times when you see a coaching change during the season they don’t really have the players there to get what they need to get done,” linebacker Michael Boley told the NY Post. “They have great players there (in Dallas). It’s all a matter of getting it done.”

There’s also the spoiler aspect of today’s game. The Giants are flying high and the Cowboys are about as low as they could be. A perfect chance for a Dallas squad feeling no pressure to play without the weight of expectations.

“They’re playing spoiler at this point,” Boley said. “They want to try to be that team that says, ‘We took the Giants' wind away from them.’ We’re not going to let that happen.”

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Posted on: October 26, 2010 8:57 am

The Cowboys (obviously) are in trouble

T. Romo will be out six to eight weeks with a broken clavicle (US Presswire). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

It’s hard to overstate just how devastating the Tony Romo broken clavicle will be for the Cowboys. It seems like everybody this morning is calling the Cowboys a dead team walking – and Wade Phillips a virtual ghost in a Dallas polo – and they’re exactly right. Forget the playoffs. Without Romo, the hope is gone.

Romo isn’t the best of the best, but he’s a pretty good starting quarterback (completing 69.5 percent of his passes this year for 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions; he also is ranked sixth in the NFL with a QB rating of 94.9).

Now, the Cowboys have to count on Jon Kitna – a serviceable backup who isn’t going to win you many games as a starter. The last time Kitna won more games than he lost as a starter was with Cincinnati in 2004. He went 2-1 that season, but since then, he’s 10-26. Nice guy, but not a guy who will turn around your season and lead you to the playoffs.

Clearly, the news of the potential season-ending injury was disappointing to Romo.

"I tried lifting my shoulder, it hurt like heck," Romo said after the game, via the New York Post. "I thought it was going to be a good sprain. I was upset, disappointed, I was frustrated. I was having a hard time breathing. You work very hard to play in these games."

For his part, Michael Boley – the Giants LB who knocked Romo out of the game and flushed the Cowboys season down the toilet – wasn’t necessarily delighted with the final result of the play.

"When he hit the ground I heard he let out a little scream so I kind of knew something was up," Boley told reporters. "I didn't think he was laid out, I thought it was just a normal hit. After I got out and started running I looked back after the play was over, (and) he was still down."

“It was just a play we had drawn up. The guard didn't see me, he blocked down on the tackle and both backs went to the other side so I came scot-free. Any time somebody gets hurt, we're all a fraternity. You hate to see people get hurt. It's something you hate to see. I wish him the best."

And as for Kitna, the man who once guaranteed the Lions would win 10 games (hint: they didn’t)?

"I am prepared to lead this football team for however many weeks that is," Kitna said, via the Cowboys official site. "It is not something that I am scared of or anything like that. I wish that this opportunity didn't come because I think it's bad for Tony (Romo), it's bad for this football team for that to happen. But, it's here and I have confidence in myself and confidence in my teammates that we'll get some things ironed out. We'll start seeing things on the same wavelength and we will be fine moving forward."

If by fine, he means a disaster of a season that ends with the firing of the head coach, then yeah, everything will be fine.
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Posted on: October 25, 2010 9:45 pm
Edited on: October 25, 2010 10:35 pm

Romo out with fractured left clavicle

Posted by Will Brinson

On the first play of the first second quarter drive for the Cowboys, Tony Romo hit Miles Austin for a nice 14-yard pass, but when the cameras panned back to the quarterback, he was lying on the field -- having been destroyed by Michael Boley -- not moving.

Foley, sprinting towards Romo at full speed, thanks to a blown block by FB Chris Gronkowski, delivered a vicious (but legal!) blow which eventually fractured the left clavicle on Romo's left throwing shoulder. Typically speaking, that's an injury that can take at least 2-3 months to heal, meaning Romo's season is all but over, barring a miraculous run by the Cowboys to get back in playoff contention with Jon Kitna under center.

Seven or so medical personnel swarmed out to check on the Dallas QB and he was removed from the game and replaced by Jon Kitna, who hadn't played a regular season snap in about two years. Romo was 5 of 7 for 39 yards and a touchdown pass at the time of the injury.

Romo tried to enter the game just a few snaps after the injury, but Cowboys medical officials weren't having it, and they took him to the locker room for X-rays, where they determined the extent of the injury. It's a major blow to an already awkward Cowboys season -- Romo's ruled out for the rest of the game against the Giants, and there's no question that his season is in jeopardy, although we won't know for sure until probably Tuesday.

Kitna was able to lead them to a field goal on the possession, and after a stop by the Dallas D, Dez Bryant got straight loose on a punt return to the house, but the Giants quickly responded and score two touchdowns to take the lead late in the second half.

That surge, coupled with the news of Romo's injury, sucked the life out of Cowboys Stadium. And for good reason.

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